PECO NAGSAMPA NG COMPETENCE AT MONOPOLY RAPS VS. MORE POWER

Nahaharap sa patong-patong na kaso ang More Electric and Power Corporation (More Power) matapos piliing huwag pansinin ang mga reklamo sa kanilang serbisyo sa pamamagitan ng pagpapalabas ng mga alegasyon laban sa Panay Electric Company (PECO).

Nagsampa kasi ang PECO ng monopoly raps at competence complaints anim na buwan lamang matapos payagang mag-operate ang More sa Iloilo sa pamamagitan ng Republic Act No. 11212.

Sa kaparehong reklamo, nagsampa rin ang PECO ng libel case laban kay Francis Gentoral, Executive Director ng Iloilo Economic Development Foundation Inc. (ILEDF) dahil sa pag-atake nito.

Ito ang dahilan ng mga pagdududa sa objectivity ng ILEDF sa pagpili at pag-promote ng appropriate investors, developers at crucial service providers para sa Iloilo.

Ang kaso ay nakasentro sa pagkuwestiyon sa kakayahan ng More Power na makapagbigay ng reliable power services sa Iloilo dahil na rin sa araw-araw na nararanasang 13-hour power outages at ang overbilling na nararanasan ng mga Ilonggo consumers.

Ito ang ipinunto ng PECO Legal Counsel Atty. Estrella Elamparo sa isinagawa nitong virtual press conference ngayong araw, September 7.

“We are fighting for our rights and to stop ILEDF from tarnishing the reputation of PECO. We are also fighting for the welfare of the people of Iloilo. We are asking the courts and the PCC to investigate MORE Power and thus stop the suffering of the Ilonggos and bring justice to PECO,” ani Elamparo.

Si Gentoral ay naglabas ng public statements na sumusuporta sa alegasyon ng More Power na maraming investors umano ang tumalikod sa Iloilo dahil sa hindi magandang serbisyo ng PECO.

Pero base sa mga dokumentong kalakip ng kasong isinampa ng PECO, nakasaad ditong mas marami umono sa city at region ang naka-attract ng power locators at nag-enjoy sa thriving economy noong ang PECO pa ang charge sa power distribution network sa Iloilo.

Sa ilalim umano ng pamamahala ng PECO nang maging Top 5 most improved highly urbanized cities ang Iloilo sa National Competitiveness Council’s Annual Cities and Municipalities Index.

Isa rin umano sa statement ng ILEDF ay nagsasabing nagkaroon ng overbilling ng electrical consumers sa Iloilo sa ilalim ng PECO.

Pero ayon sa PECO ang More umano ang nakitaan ng overcharging ng halos P7.7 million noong buwan ng Hulyo hanggang Agosto na billing cycle.

Isa rin umanong dahilan kung bakit kaduda-duda ang mga statement ng IELDF ay dahil umupo ang More Power CEO na si Roel Castro bilang board ng IELDF.

“The very least that IELDF could have done was to disclose their history with Castro before issuing those statements. Ideally, however, decorum and business ethics require that they should just have remained impartial throughout and refrained from making those statements supporting MORE Power,” ani Elamparo.

Samantala nagpaliwanag naman ang PECO Head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs na si Marcelo Cacho sa pagsasampa nila ng libel case laban kay Gentoral.

“We want to set the record straight. MORE Power has always passed the blame to us because it has been failing to deliver on its mandate to deliver its electrical services. It has been failing its duty and should be investigated.
Instead of being objective about their statements, ILEDF has supported their statements despite what the facts show. MORE, with IELDF’s assistance, is concealing their failures and playing the blame game, when they should be fulfilling their responsibilities,” ani Cacho.

Ang ikalawa namang inihaing reklamo ng PECO ngayong araw ay kasama na ang Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).

Nakasaad dito ang broader picture ng posibleng kaduda-dudang intensiyon ng MORE Power sa pamamagitan ng pag-charge ng monopolistic at antitrust practices.

Sa reklamo ng PCC, nakasaad ditong nilabag ng MORE Power ang prohibition ng monopoly sa ilalim ng 1987 Constitution; Republic Act 9136 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) at Republic Act 10667 o Philippine Competition Act.

Nalabag umano ng MORE Power ang batas noong tinake over nito ang assets, equipment at clientele ng PECO na hindi bumibili ng sariling ari-arian o pag-invest sa resources para mapagsilbihan nang maayos ang mga consumers.

Sa virtual press con, ipinunto ni Elamparo kung paano nakakaapekto ang aksiyon ng More Power para ma-establish ang kanilang monopolistic stronghold sa power sector sa Iloilo City.

“Instead of building its own distribution system capable of keeping up with PECO’s existing assets, MORE Power, under the guise of expropriation, picked the easy way and simply took PECO’s facilities and clientele. In this way, it avoided competing against a seasoned player and, at the same time, gained dominance over the industry. Eliminating one’s competitors to ensure absolute dominance over an industry is the very essence of anti-competitive conduct. This violates what Section 19, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution says: ‘The State shall regulate or prohibit monopolies when the public interest so requires. No combinations in restraint of trade or unfair competition shall be allowed,” ani Elamparo.

Ayon kay Atty. Elamparo, isa pang batas na nilabag ng More Power ay ang Section 45 ng EPIRA Law o ang Cross Ownership, Market Power Abuse and Anti-Competitive Behavior.

“No participant in the electricity industry or any other person may engage in any anti-competitive behavior including, but not limited to, cross-subsidization, price or market manipulation, or other unfair trade practices detrimental to the encouragement and protection of contestable markets,” base sa section ng naturang batas.

At sa kabila umano ng kawalan ng experience, expertise o resources sa distribution ng elektrisidad, inako raw ng More Power ang responsibilidad bilang electric distributor ng Iloilo City kahit kilala lamang ito noon na mining company.

Iginiit ni Atty. Elamparo na kinokontra rin nito ang Philippine Competition Act na nakasaad sa Section 15 o ang Abuse of Dominant Position.

“It shall be prohibited for one or more entities to abuse their dominant position by engaging in conduct that would substantially prevent, restrict or lessen competition.”

Sa pitong buwan simula nang nagkaroon ng expropriation sa mga assets ng PECO, inulan na ng isyu ang More Power na dahilan kung bakit nagkaroon ng galit mula sa mga business at private sectors ng Ilonggo community.

Humaharap na nga raw ang mga Ilonggo ng hirap ng buhay dahil sa Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, nakadagdag pa raw sa kanilang problema ang pagtaas ng electronic billings na aabot sa P20 million ang overcharging.

Samantala, ang power outages na minsan ay tumatagal ng 13 oras ay nakakaapekto rin sa mga professionals na umaasa sa Internet para sa kanilang work from home duties, mga batang nagsimula na sa online school at crucial covid testing centers.

At dahil daw sa mga reklamo sa hindi magandang serbisyo ng More Power, hugas kamay ang naturang power distribution firm sa pamamagitan ng pagsisi sa PECO dahol sa kanilang outdated at faulty equipment maging ang multiple jumpers na naging sagabal sa kanilang serbisyo.

“PECO had never taken any action to prevent entry of any competitor in the market. We never took any action to snuff out any possible competition. What makes MORE different is that once it was given the franchise, it saw the opportunity to handicap any competitor, and most probable was PECO. Instead of putting up their own system, they chose to take over PECO instead, ensuring that the organization would not be able to compete and present a threat to its planned monopoly of Iloilo. We want PCC to step in and hold MORE accountable for this monopolistic act,” ani Elamparo.

Nangangamba naman si Atty. Elamparo sa kapakanan ng Iloilo City kapag nagtuloy-tuloy ang monopolistic at unreliable services ng More Power.

“Iloilo is a booming, progressive place and whoever provides its power will find itself in a lucrative position. If a monopoly is allowed to exist and continue, the suffering of the Ilonggos will also continue. Businesses will suffer.
Then the progress that Iloilo has accomplished in the last few years can be fatally reversed, and we might see locators and investors going to other regions, instead of staying in Iloilo. We are filing these cases and complaints not just for PECO, but for Iloilo,” pagtatapos ni Elamparo.

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